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College of Education > News and Publications > News: July - Sept. 2012 > New Penn State Center Aims to Transform Teaching and Learning Process

New Penn State Center Aims to Transform Teaching and Learning Process

The Center for Online Innovation in Learning will support faculty research on inventing, implementing and investigating new ways to use technology to improve online education.

Today's connected "net generation" wants to use smartphones, tablets, laptops and other high-tech devices for communication as well as learning. This is leading to 10 percent growth in online enrollments nationally, according to the Sloan Consortium. Penn State, which offers online programs through its World Campus, is creating a Center for Online Innovation in Learning to help faculty researchers invent, implement and investigate new technology uses to improve online teaching and learning.

"Penn State's leadership in online education has been recognized nationally, including by recent National University Technology Network and Sloan Consortium awards," said Craig Weidemann, vice president for Outreach. "The new center will enable Penn State researchers to use the living laboratory of the World Campus to test innovative approaches to online education design and delivery."

The College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), the College of Education and the World Campus are partners in the center. Three co-directors — Fred Fonseca, associate professor, College of IST; Kyle Peck, professor and research fellow, College of Education; and Lawrence C. Ragan, director of Faculty Development, Penn State Outreach — will engage interested faculty and staff from all colleges and campuses as they explore new approaches in online learning and the effects of those new approaches on what teachers and learners do, how they do it and what they learn.

David L. Hall, dean of the College of IST, pointed out that "students absolutely expect to be online and connected all of the time." The college's online enrollment of more than 400 undergraduates and more than 150 graduate students illustrates this trend. "Our faculty members have developed virtual laboratories for cyber security programs and worked to enhance faculty-student connectivity through social media, mobile and cloud computing and distributed collaboration technologies. Being involved in the new center is a natural fit for our college."

The World Campus, addressing the needs of the adult learner, has experienced a dramatic growth in enrollments — 22 percent last year. More than 80 professional certificate, associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs are available online. Students appreciate access to a Penn State learning experience via the World Campus without the barriers of time and location.

The College of Education, an early adopter of online education, offered the first online master's degree through the World Campus in 1999 and now serves more than 1,000 students in a growing mix of professional master's and certificate programs. Dean David H. Monk said, "The master's degree in adult education has continued to grow, along with our other programs offered online. The new center will enable Penn State to maintain its leadership role in online teaching and learning, while increasing the number, size and scope of research projects College of Education and other Penn State faculty will be able to pursue."


-- Deborah Benedetti (August 2012)